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Bridie, the girl from Donegal and first 'global pop star' dies aged 87

By Greg Harkin

THE singer described as Ireland's "first international pop star" and the idol of a generation of emigrants died yesterday aged 87.

Bridie Gallagher was known as the 'Girl from Donegal' but she conquered many of the globe's most famous concert venues.

As news spread of Ms Gallagher's death at her home in Belfast, tributes were paid last night by fans who went on to carve their own careers in showbusiness.

A native of Creeslough, Co Donegal, she inspired many modern acts, including Paul Brady and Daniel O'Donnell, and was once the darling of RTE radio.

Ms Gallagher became famous in 1956 after being spotted by a talent scout in Belfast and releasing the hit single 'A Mother's Love's a Blessing'.

She was later given her own show on RTE radio and went on to play London's Royal Albert Hall, the Sydney Opera House and Carnegie Hall in New York.

She made Belfast her home in her 20s but she travelled the world as her career took off.

Ms Gallagher was caught up in the booming pop music scene of the late 1950s and '60s, and tapped an Irish emigrant audience in the US.

In an interview recently, she recalled: "I always loved New York and I always remember going to Times Square, you know, and I felt I've really made it now.''

Bridie Gallagher's death came just a few weeks after a TV tribute to her career. Her granddaughter Teresa Livingstone was involved in making the UTV programme. "The most significant part of the journey for me was meeting with her fans in New York who could recall the details of her performances over 50 years later.

"The stories of Irish immigrants and how important her music had been to so many were quite overwhelming to listen to first hand," she said.

Mr O'Donnell said of her: "I always say Bridie was the first from Donegal to pave the way for all of us that came after.

"And I would say anyone that you would talk to of the Donegal singers would say that, because coming from Creeslough, or coming from where I come from, it's a world away from where we ended up.''

Ms Gallagher's life was tinged with sadness when in 1976 her 21-year-old son Peter was killed in a motorbike accident.

"She never really got over that but she just kept going," said her other son Jim.


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In Loving Memory of Grant Gallagher: Sept. 21, 1990 - Nov. 18, 2006